Thursday, June 14, 2018

Tribute to George Rosenbaum; Hold The Nobel Peace Prize For Now But Give Trump the Chutzpah Award

I learned this week of the passing of George Rosenbaum. He was 88. When he was eight he witnessed Hitler’s troops marching through his home city, Vienna. Shortly thereafter his family emigrated to the United States. With that early experience seared into his memory, George would comment on some of my blogs, usually the political ones. 

I first met George in 1980. He was president of Leo J. Shapiro and Associates, a market research firm based in Chicago. Chain Store Age engaged George and Leo for what I thought would be a one-off project studying Kmart. Instead, for the next 29 years hardly a month passed without research from LJS appearing in my magazine.

As I wrote two and a half years ago when Leo passed away at age 94, the value of market research is dependent on how questions are structured and fielded. “Garbage in, garbage out” is a truism of the trade. George and Leo shaped my rough ideas into sharp analytical studies. 

Contributors to Advertising Age and often quoted in The Wall Street Journal and other business publication, LJS did research for many retail and health care companies. 

After I started my blog, George and Leo often would email their thoughts. When I hadn’t heard from George for several months, I did what is now an easy Google search. His death notice popped up. He passed away May 7. I called his wife Wednesday to express my condolences and appreciation for our relationship which continued beyond our work years.

Here’s a sample of George’s reactions to my blogs:

To a blog that asked, which is more of a threat to Western civilization: Islamic extremists or neo-Nazis? (, George wrote: “Deaths by guns nor deaths by terror do not threaten Western liberty. The widening gap between have and have-nots caused mainly by technology makes fertile ground for despots who pledge to fix what’s wrong.  

“Bread has always pre-empted liberty. Europe has been deeded the vast number of refugees by the failed states it created after WW1 and defeat of the Ottoman Empire. 

“Pray that Israel continues to protect and support Palestine, especially if it should become a state.”

To a blog on Charlottesville and the lessons of history (, George responded: “Well said…and even better written. Until now I never heard a spade being called a spade. The secession of the South was led by traitors. It was treason; it was not a matter of free choice or honor. The West Point graduate(s) and elected representatives took oaths and pledged to uphold the Union—UNITED States. To reconstruct that union, history was white washed. Hollywood contributed to the white wash. The removal of Confederate statues is a double edge sword that reminds us that the reconstruction is not complete. The unreconstructed want to hold on to what once was—embedded in their soul, to quote you. On the other hand, the many Southerners who want those monuments removed are working on behalf of reconstruction perhaps even themselves.

“I was still a child in Vienna when the American Bund rallied for Hitler, but this seems quite distant from present organized hate groups—some 1,300 in the US, according to the Southern Poverty League. It is now post WW2, post Holocaust. The western world and US have mobilized to control hate legally as well as socially to oppose it. The digital age makes us all vulnerable to the destructiveness of hatred. Society has reacted…as it is reacting to Charlottesville now. Prior history may relate but does not apply.

“Jews are a bellweather. We see them leaving France, Poland, Hungary. No American Jew is leaving because of fear; they are United citizens who entrust and are prepared to share their fate with all other Americans. 

“Surely this is unique…just as America is unique in all of history.”

Ever the market researcher, George contemplated a statistical response to Trump’s penchant for lying. Responding to my January 22, 2017, blog on Trump and the Truth: Never the Twain Shall Meet (, he suggested, “Autocrats are always enabled by the truths they create. And, correction is always silenced by their acolytes.  

“Truthtellers, if not removed from their jobs, are punished and pay dearly, even with their lives. Many attempts to silence Hitler failed. But, this is still the US. And, you are a flourishing truth teller, not a silent spectator. Moreover, a journalist with inbred and professional capacity for observation.  

“What is needed on behalf of America is an Autocracy Index. This is as follows:
Date   The Falsehood   The Medium   The Facts

“I believe that this could readily be funded. To date, there is already enough to create this with post inauguration material to avoid being written off as campaign rhetoric.  This could help attract financial support, establish a daily/weekly report published online by a responsible source, and even a weekly adjunct on television news, or its own show. While its beginning (the count so far) requires sweat equity, funding could reimburse daily continuity, both its management, support staff and interns.”

I will miss George’s insights, intelligence, experience and friendship.

Memo to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee: Not so fast!

While Donald Trump and his boosters tout a safer world from a denuclearized North Korea after his historic tete-a-tete with Kim Jong-un, saner, more rational observers express caution, even skepticism. As more daylight emerges from their Tuesday meeting in Singapore, it seems both sides have different interpretations of what transpired, what commitments each side made and how quickly, if ever, the Korean peninsula will be nuke free (check your preferred news outlet for details).

What you might have missed, in Trump’s euphoria and habit of hyperbole, is the reality that nothing new was contained in the photo-op signing of a joint statement. For context, read or listen to Joshua Pollack’s five minute interview on NPR (Pollack is an expert on nonproliferation and editor of The Nonproliferation Review). For those who want a quick summation here’s a pertinent Pollack quote: 

“On paper, neither side gave up anything or received anything. These are the same standing commitments that both sides have had for a while now. There’s not a lot new except, I suppose, the resumption of searching for the war dead. Having said that, the fact of this summit—the visuals, the flags, the handshakes, the smiles—all that certainly elevates Kim Jong-un internationally, enhances his credibility at home, assuming that he feels he needs that. And I think it will tend to confirm him in his mindset that testing probable hydrogen bomb and long-range ICBM is what has gotten him respect from the powers of the world, including the United States. And I don’t think he’ll be inclined to give it up” (

Chutzpah Award: On the other hand, The Philanderer-in-Chief earned the Chutzpah Comment of the Week award by attacking Congressman Mark Sanford (R-SC) for his dalliance with an Argentinean woman while married and governor of South Carolina. 
The Trumpster endorsed Sanford’s primary challenger as retaliation for the congressman’s less than blind loyalty. Sanford lost, another indication Republican Party masses have abandoned longstanding GOP principles and are now no more objective than any cult followers.

Mixed Messages: Ft. Lee, NJ, wants to promote business in its community, but a mixed message might be part of its campaign.
A billboard on Route 46 just before the George Washington Bridge cheerfully suggests stopping in Ft. Lee for Happy Hour drinks. Are town fathers really advocating drinking and then getting back into one’s car?